The Power of the Printed Word

by | Jan 19, 2023 | Article, History, Research

Just about this time last year, in early 2022, I had the opportunity to share my research on Jo Andrews’ Haptic and Hue Podcast, in episode she called “Canada’s Forgotten Quilts”. Since that time, with Jo’s encouragement, I have dug deeper into the primary sources to learn more about the quilts and other comforts made by Canadian women for British refugees during the Second World War. Jo Andrews, with her mother, owned one of these quilts, and when she discovered I lived near Gananoque, Ontario, these two women decided most generously to return the quilt to the community in which it had been made. The fact that her quilt had such a specific label, and was from a community so close to me, encouraged me to ‘dive deep’ into the local newspaper, The Gananoque Reporter

Label on the wartime quilt returned to Gananoque

Little did we realize how that label would lead me to uncover a very targeted and focused campaign of charity in wartime.  Last April I posted a story in this blog about the donations of maple syrup from the townspeople of Gananoque and the County of Leeds to the people of Britain. I thought it was time I shared a little more about the amazing contributions of this small town.

To provide a little bit of context, Gananoque is a beautiful town on the St. Lawrence River in Ontario, in a spectacular area called the Thousand Islands.  The population of Gananoque has changed little over the last one hundred years – it is still around 5000 to 6000 people. The surrounding County of Leeds is primarily rural, with many quaint villages and hamlets nestled between the farms. 

Gananoque, Ontario, Canada – 1919 – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

The Gananoque Reporter has been in continuous publication since 1860. The owner and publisher of the newspaper in the 1940’s, Gerald Scott, seems to have found in his newspaper pages the opportunity to use the words he printed to stimulate, encourage and rally the town and surrounding communities to become seriously involved in the charitable element of the war effort. By printing in great detail the work and contributions on a weekly basis, and even the names of individuals and businesses and groups that donated, it appears that he rallied this small community in a way that I have not seen recorded elsewhere, so far in my research. Below, I am sharing one week’s entire article which he published on January 8, 1942, eighty-three years ago.  Here he summarized the success of the campaign which he called ‘Clothing and Food for Britain’ – ‘C.F.B’ – a campaign which at the time of this article was just one year old.  It is a long article of about 2000 words, but I have included all of it, to honour his attention to detail and also to honour and record again in history, the names of all those he recorded who responded to his encouragement to continue in any way they could to the needs of the British people.  These people have likely all left us now, but I hope if any of their children and grandchildren are alive and have stories to share about this time period, they will be in touch with me. 

Many thanks, Mr. Gerald Scott, for recording history in such great detail so that future generations can learn about and learn from the generosity of these people and this place in wartime Canada, Gananoque and Leeds County, Ontario.  Even in the last sentence of the article, he reminds his readers of the current need of old fur coats to line minesweepers’ jerkins and that donations of such can be dropped off at the newspaper’s office – more about that in an upcoming post.

Over 4 ½ Tons of Food and Clothes Sent to Britain in Past Year: In First Year of “C.F.B.” Donations Were Received From Many Points in Canada and United States – Interest of Townspeople Largely Responsible for Record

Christmas Issue of Reporter Brings Donations From Ottawa, Toronto, and Halifax

“C.F.B.” started one year ago as  a result of a letter written by Mrs. Smith, wife of F. Nevill Smith, O. B. E., second in command of the Fire Fighting Administration at Westminster. Mrs. Smith gave no hint whatsoever regarding the sending of parcels. She merely described conditions in the Old Country.

The letter was read by immediate friends of Miss Sine’s and appeared in The Reporter in January 1941. A circle of friends offered to assist with good clothing, and money to take care of the postage which amounted to three dollars for every twenty pounds sent. Various Bridge Clubs as well as more and individuals added to the contributions of clothing and funds. The Thursday Knitting Club instigated so-call Postage Teas.

“C.F.B.” had no name until the middle of March. At that time the Editor of the Reporter decided to open a campaign to which he gave the name “C.F.B.”, the letters standing for Clothes for Britain. The issue of March 20, 1941, had the following large headlines on one front page: “REPORTER READERS INVITED TO DONATE CLOTHING TO BOMBED-OUT FOLKS IN BRITAIN.” This issue also gave three columns to the need and to letters received. Some of the large headlines of the Next Reporters were: “OVER 80 PERSONS HELP BRITISH VICTIMS”. “C.F.B. RECEIVING ENTHUSIASTIC SUPPORT WITH 80 MORE DONORS.” “104 NEW CONTRIBUTORS TO C.F.B. IN PAST WEEK.” “BOMBED OUT HAVE NOTHING BUT WHAT FOLKS GIVE THEM. IN SPITE OF IT ALL THE SUFFERING DO NOT LOSE HEART.”

The response with material and monetary donations was magnificent and parcels moved out steadily. Colonel Mooney gave Miss Sine the privilege of packing and weighing the parcels at the Post-office, so that the work was greatly lightened and each parcel weighed the allowed amount.

Forty-one consecutive copies of The Reporter have now advertised C.F.B. with the result that other means were needed for transporting the great bulk of the gifts. Regular freight was too expensive. Captain Best of the Salvation Army was interviewed and agreed that shipments be packed a C.F.B. Headquarters, 101 Pine St., and sent free to Salvation Army Headquarters, Toronto. Two dozen large cartons averaging fifty pounds have gone in this manner.

“C.F.B.” has no superstition regarding the thirteenth. Its first shipment direct to the Women’s Voluntary Services for Civil Defence left on June 13, and although it was two months and one week reaching its destination, it was duly acknowledged on the day of its arrival and greatly appreciated.

Parcels had been going steadily by mail to the W.S. Mrs. Smith had provided the contact. Since the above-mentioned date, namely June 13, sixteen large shipments have gone to the Head of the Overseas Dept. W.S., London. Each shipment has contained several wooden tea chests or larger packing cases. These numbered eighty-three and together weighted six thousand eight hundred and sixty-five pounds. The parcels by mail and the cartons to the Salvation Army, Toronto, bring this amount to eight thousand seven hundred and forty-one pounds.

“C.F.B.” funds grew as the shipping increased. Large donations were received from the Rotary and Lions Clubs, Miss R.S. Edwards of the Blinkbonnie, Walter Reynolds, M.L.A., Half Moon Bay, ex-Mayor and Mrs. W.J. Wilson, Mr. and Mrs. D.M. Spaidal, Bridge part at Mrs. E. Staebler’s, Mr. and Mrs. D. Matthew, Mr. and Mrs. G.G. Hood, Dr. and Mrs. Davis, Captain and Mrs. K. Gray, Mrs. Robert Louch, Miss J. McKellar, while smaller ones were received from Christ Church Guild; Senior King’s Daughters; Junior King’s Daughters, Bethel Church, Young People; Women’s Association of McKellar; War Workers of Emery and Legge School Section; Village of Westport; various bridge, euchre and bingo parties; several rooms of the Linklater School; Pittsburg School; Ottawa Bowling Clubs, and a great host of individuals. Children held jamborees and bingos to help the treasury.

The committee felt the need of still more money for the buying of necessities and held a Tag Day on August 14. The result was most gratifying with the receipts of $231.00.

“C.F.B.” seems to have had many highlights in the one year of its existence. Toward the middle of November a letter came from Mr. Milburne, head of Canadian Red Cross shipping and chairman of the National Transportation Committee, announcing that “C.F.B.” shipments could hereafter go free from port to port. This system already used for four large consignments, is most satisfactory as the chests still reach W.V.S. headquarters and just as they leave Gananoque.

(corner of page is torn so a few words of the next two paragraphs are missing)

Gananoque has, as usual ….over the top. Practically …family has responded to …..for clothes, food and ….ponded wonderfully….

Organization….have aided…They are: Anglican Guild, Catholic Women’s League, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Sunday School, and the following of the United Church: Winona Circle, young Adult Group, Mother’s Department, three C.G.I.T. Groups and one of the Explorers.

The High and Linklater Schools have made excellent contributions and one room of the Separate School.

The employees of the St. Lawrence Steel and Wire Co. packed two large boxes with new articles. The Cow and Gate firm gave a special rate on seven dozen cans of Chox (hot chocolate drink mix). The stores made splendid donations, especially E.P. Wright and Son, Lipson’s, McDonald’s Shoe Repair Shop, Stunden Gift Shop, Stunden Grocery Store, Black’s Shepperd’s, Dixon Cleaners, Red and White, Webster’s, Dominion Store; while Austin’s and Bishop’s Drug Stores, Stedman’s, Wright’s, Black’s, Miss Ferguson, Robertson’s, Wilson’s and Lipson’s have supplied all the cases.

All the grocery stores kindly drew attention to the food boxes when these were on display.

Neighbours on Garden, John and South Streets have met frequently for quilting.

News of Gananoque’s “C.F.B.” campaign spread, until the list of donors now represents thirty places in Ontario, twenty in United States and a few in three other provinces. The largest Ontario contributions have come from Westport (eight hundred items collected by the Girl Guides); from War Workers of Legge and Emery School Section; Catholic Women’s league Lansdowne and from McKellar Women’s Association. The largest American donations have come from Miss Anne Landon, Dolgeville, N.Y., Mrs. C.W. Zaring and friends in Miami, Fla., G.W. Bovaird, Bradford, Pa., Mrs. Ruby Harris, Pontiac, Mich., Mr. and Mrs. Cecil Sherin, Pelican Rapids, Minn., Dr. and Mrs. Chambers, St. Lous, Miss., and Dr. and Mrs.. Wright, Washington D.C.

Groups of children offering gifts outside Gananoque children, were pupils of Brockville, Pittsburg, Wilstead, Willowbank, Cataraqui, Springfield, and the Camp Fire Girls of Pelican Rapids, Minn.

For various reasons clothing and books have not always reached C.F.B. Headquarters in a good state of repair. Therefore, it was necessary to obtain helpers for this work as nothing is packed unless in first-class condition. Mrs. John Talbot and Mrs. Clifford Sine have done the greater amount of this repair work in clothing while the War Workers of Legge and Emery School section have reconditioned many gifts. Others who have assisted with the mending are: the members of the Winona Circle, Mrs. W. F. Fairman, Mrs. W.S. Maxwell, Mrs. Victor Stunden, Mrs. B. Dustin, Mrs. E. O. Emerson, Mrs. V. Shaw, Walmsley and Mrs. C. Swann with their C.G.I.T. Groups. Books needing attention have been put into shape by Miss Mary Hale, B.A.  Dolls have been dressed by Mrs. W.V. Battams, Mrs. John McFarlane, Mory Anderson, Nancy Logan and Mary Jane McKay.

The W.V.S. have stressed the need of clothing for children under five for beautiful apparel has been given by so many including Mrs. K. Johnston, Mrs. N. Rogers, and Mrs. Arthur Smith, while many stitches have been made by the following:

Mrs. John Talbot, Mrs. W.H. Parmenter, Mrs. Buell, Stone St., Junior King’s Daughters, Mrs. Victor Stunden, Mrs. W.J. Maxwell, Mrs. Davidson of King Apts., Miss Nellie Eastwood, C.G.I.T. Group of Mrs. Cheetham. Interesting branches of the sewing have been the making of felt shoes and coin purses from hats, and mittens and afghans from the tops of men’s socks. These were made by Mrs. E. Walmsley and her C.G.I.T. Group, Mrs. W.V. Battams, Miss Eville Davis, R.N., Montreal, Mrs. R. Burtch, Napanee; by several classes of the Linklater School and by pupils of Miss Irene Hunter, Pittsburg and Miss Asenath Munro, Cataraqui.

Further knitting for children of five and over has been done by Mrs. Harry Cook. Miss Gladys Hubbard and by the seventy-nine year old invalid, Mr. Richard Lloyd of Brewer’s Mills. English children have been provided with four hundred workbooks by Mr. and Mrs. Clifford Show, a Mivie Tracer Set by Mrs. Harry Harper, game of Monopoly by Mrs. W.T. Sampson, records by W.H. Parmenter and toys from pupils of Miss Ann Cunningham, Westport Girl Guides, Linklater School and Patricia and Beverly Wood. Victor Hicock of Morton made and donated some sewing sets. The waved Maple leaves from Mrs. John Bulloch will provide a bright spot for the recipients; while the jam from Mrs. James Hill, Mrs. Fenwick, Mrs. Dimmock, Mrs. Dunster, Toronto, per Mrs. A. Stevenson, Mrs. Mordick, New York, Mrs. W. Wright and others will please many a palate. Mrs. Lowans and Mrs. Fry provided cutlery for those who had lost all.

There have been many cases of real sacrifice displayed in the C.F.B Campaign. Two of the most touching were the little sisters who were determined to send their best dolls, and the gentleman who parted with two out of four of his Christmas socks and who left a coat that he was wearing. Others such as Mrs. Offord, Maple St., have donated hundreds of articles.

The Women’s Voluntary Services of Civil Defence, London, where C.F.B. shipments go, have Queen Elizabeth as President and Lady Reading as Chairman. A letter from the latter will be found elsewhere in this issue of The Reporter. From the other letters, readers will note that the boxes from Gananoque have now been distributed in three countries, namely England, Wales and North Ireland. The London Papers have listed C.F.B. shipments five times. The W.V.S monthly Bulletins, sent by Mrs. Dunbar, Head of the Overseas Department, list items in the order in which they are most needed. The following list is from a recent Bulletin:

“Underwear for men, women and children. Clothing for children under five, shoes for all.”

Can you give some of these or money to help with the buying? Please ask your friends near and far to help “C.F.B.”

Many copies of the Reporter of December 25 were sent to places in Canada and the United States. Three of these have responded already with gifts.

The school of Miss Asenath Munro near Cataraqui donated eighteen pairs of felt shoes and a very complete layette. Winona Circle members have filled several shelter kits.

Following is the list of the new donors for the past two weeks: Mrs. John Beresford, Mrs. David Belfie, Mrs. T.G. Berry, Miss Vera Berry, Mrs. Roy Bird, Mrs. Warren Black, Kingston. Mrs. James Clements (formerly Miss Jack Beatty, Garden Street), Halifax, N.S., Miss E. Dulton, Ottawa, Misses Alice and Lillian Harding, Toronto, W.C. Parmenter, Mrs. John Paton, Kingston, Pupils of Miss Asenath Munro, Cataraqui, St. Andrews Sunday School, Mrs. E. Stone, Toronto, Dr. and Mrs. Stephen, The Fair Store, Mrs. Andrew Truesdell; Ivy Lea. Stores and Banks gave calendars.

The children who contributed were: Douglas and Reginald Beatty, Halifax, N.S., Billy O’Hearne, John Paton, Kingston, Sally and Jim Rogers, Katherine Truesdell, Ivy Lea.  

Your old furs are needed for minesweeper jerkins. Please leave these at The Reporter Office.

The Gananoque Reporter, January 8, 1942

The Times (London) – December 10, 1943 – page 7